V/Line operates a lean, hungry service as buffet service shut down

V/LINE’S Melbourne-Albury trains have not had a buffet service for three days in the past week, forcing passengers to buy food elsewhere.

The latest V/Line saga will be raised with the company’s North East manager by Wod-onga’s V/Line rail campaigner Bill Traill at a meeting tomorrow.

“Obviously it’s unsatisfactory,” he said.

“If it happens once it’s tolerable but once it goes into a second day, there is no acceptable excuse.”

A spokeswoman said staff had the flu, so V/Line had no choice but to close the buffet.

She said attempts had been made to call in staff but they had been unsuccessful.

“Our priority is running the service, so we’ve ensured at least one conductor has been available to run the service.”

Mr Traill said V/Line should ensure it had the staff for the six services a day.

“From this end of the line, the typical rail patron would have a need to access the kiosk at least once during a four-hour journey,” he said.

“This tarnishes the brand and it’s terribly unfortunate.”

The affected services were the 6.35am and 12.45pm trains from Albury yesterday, the 7.05am train from Melbourne to Albury and the 6.35am from Albury to Melbourne on Monday and the 6.35am from Albury to Melbourne on Saturday.

North East MPs yesterday defended the service with the member for Benambra, Bill Tilley, saying “illness is the reality of every workplace”.

“They tried through social media to let passengers know to bring a snack,” he said.

Mr Tilley said it was not a case of hiring more staff.

“You cannot just have people in a staff cupboard,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be right for the taxpayer to fund people sitting on the bench.”

Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said while a fully serviced train was important, he understood V/Line’s challenges.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said V/Line required two staff to check tickets, supervise passengers and serve buffet-car refreshments.

“V/Line finds relieving staff when possible, but unfortunately has not been able to do so on every occasion,” he said.

“The Victorian Coalition government believes it is important for the buffet car to be staffed, however sometimes unforeseen circumstances do occur.”